An article appeared yesterday in the online version of the British Medical Journal reporting that regular didgeridoo playing reduces snoring and daytime sleepiness, both symptoms of sleep apnea.
I’ve never tried playing a didgeridoo nor have I ever recommended it to any of my many patients afflicted with sleep apnea. What I have done with these patients is encourage them to faithfully follow a real food low-carbohydrate diet. In my experience low-carbohydrate diets work better than any other therapeutic modality to get rid of sleep apnea, and that included surgery. What’s more, it pretty much treats the sleep apnea long before much weight is lost.
I’ve had patients who have logged tens of thousands of hours on CPAP (assisted breathing) machines get off them not long after starting their low-carb diets.
If you have sleep apnea or even think you have sleep apnea, by all means see a physician. If you do have the disorder, it is extremely important to use a CPAP machine whenever you sleep, even if you simply lie down for a little nap. My very best friend died nine years ago this month because he didn’t use his CPAP when he dozed off on the couch.
My friend was probably the best, most conscientious family physician I have ever known. He took all his own call (a rarity nowadays) and went out and saw any and all of his patients who showed up in the emergency room at all hours instead of leaving them to the mercies of the on-call ER doc. He had put on some excess weight–maybe 25 pounds–and had been diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed a CPAP machine shortly before his death.
I visited him in his office a couple of days before he died and commented on all the pies, candy, cookies, and fruit cakes I saw scattered everywhere. He told me that all his patients brought him these as Christmas gifts. He said he couldn’t resist eating them. He also told me about his sleep apnea, which I wasn’t aware of.
I told him that he could easily rid himself of the problem and the CPAP with a low-carb diet. He agreed. He was a believer in the low-carb diet, and put as many of his own patients on as he could. He told me that he was going to start a low-carb diet right after the new year. He said he was going to go on his own version of the 12-step program to break what he believed was his carbohydrate addiction. I told him I was going to hold him to it. It was the last time we ever spoke.
He went home after a long day on December 11, played with his twin sons who had just turned nine, watched while his wife put the finishing touches on their Christmas tree. When his wife went up to put the kids down, he laid down on the couch and dozed off. when his wife came down, he wasn’t breathing. Despite all the efforts of all the best doctors in the hospital, he never regained consciousness. He was 44.
This story is to emphasize how important it is to get sleep apnea dealt with. When people with sleep apnea go to sleep, they quit breathing. Usually they wake up a little when this happens, gasp for a few breaths, snort and snore, and go back to sleep. This process is repeated throughout the night. Typically these people never get a good night’s sleep so they are tired all the next day and actually sometimes fall asleep at the wheel or while at work or an any odd time.
Occasionally, however, as happened with my friend, the low oxygen level that comes from not breathing while asleep precipitates an arrhythmia that can be fatal. That’s why the CPAP machine is absolutely essential until the sleep apnea is treated successfully.
The didgeridoo might be more fun, but I would be willing to bet that the low-carb diet is much more effective.
Why didn't I think of that?